The first incarnation of “Chicken in Weeds” appeared in my very first book, Kitchen Magic. It’s a curry that my mother adapted from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe from the 1990s, a simple, delicately spiced curry, and I renamed it “Chicken in Weeds” due to the fact that the chicken swam in a pool of coriander.
I still make it regularly at home, though it has developed into what feels like a very different incarnation, superior in its flavour and viscosity. The chicken is more authentically chopped: I use the whole bird, jointed, making for a richer stock, and cook it low and slow so the meat falls off the bone (you can use leg and thigh pieces if you prefer, but I want you to try breaking up a whole chicken) and I’ve upped the spicing too, including cardamom, turmeric, cloves and cinnamon. I’ve also made it greener with added spinach, and cashews for a gentle, creamy roundness.
It’s completely inauthentic, yet somehow tastes like a curry that should sit among the classics. It makes the most brilliant everyday meal, but also a terrific dish as part of an Indian or Middle Eastern dinner party. My mum was famous for making huge feasts and would serve this with yellow pea tarka dhal and often a beetroot and coconut curry or raw carrot raita.
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1 chicken, skinned and joined (or 6 thigh, leg and wing pieces)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and roughly chopped
5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 green cardamom pods
Pinch of ground cloves
½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp ground turmeric
500ml fresh chicken stock
1 cinnamon stick
1 green chilli, kept whole
100g coriander, leaves and stalks
100g unsalted cashews
200g spinach leaves, washed
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp sea salt
Cooked basmati rice, to serve
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a casserole dish over a high heat, then brown the chicken pieces in two batches until they are caramelised all over (you may need to add a little more oil to the pan for the second batch of chicken). Remove and set aside.
- Add the rest of the oil to the pan, set the heat to medium-low and throw in the onions, garlic and ginger (it will be blitzed to a paste, so don’t worry about chopping everything finely). Sweat for at least 20 minutes, until the onions are really soft and golden and have begun to caramelise, then add all of the spices to the dish, except the cinnamon stick and green chilli, and fry for a minute or two before adding the chicken stock. Return the chicken and any residual juices to the dish and add the cinnamon stick and whole green chilli. Cover and cook over a low heat for 40 minutes, until the chicken is starting to come away from the bone.
Remove the chicken from the sauce once more and set aside. Carefully transfer the sauce to a food processor, removing the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick, but including the whole chilli (don’t worry about removing the stalk). Add the coriander, cashews and spinach and blitz until smooth – you want everything to be mulched and blended together well. Return this vibrant green sauce to the casserole dish and put the chicken back in. Heat together for 5 minutes but no longer, as you don’t want to lose the bright colour of the sauce. Squeeze in the lemon juice and season with the salt. Serve with basmati rice.
These Delicious Things by Jane Hodson, Lucas Hollweg and Clerkenwell Boy is publishing on 9th November with Pavilion, HarperCollins (RRP £25). These Delicious Things will be published in support of Magic Breakfast.